The Two Worst Phrases in the English Language

imagesMove on.

Let it go.

Many a time have these been said to me, either by someone I know or by myself, to myself.

In our present context, these cliches have become the equivalent of a super-sized dose of antidepressants. Take two and everything will be fine, we say.

Popular culture considers these the panacea to pretty much all our interpersonal ills. You got mercilessly bullied as a child because you were branded as weird or different?

Move on. Let it go.

You grew up in abusive household or were bounced around the foster care system because your parents couldn’t behave like adults?

Move on. Let it go.

You were married to someone who later turned into the exact opposite of the person you initially fell in love with and the destruction of that relationship absolutely crushed you?

Move on. Let it go.

I freely concede that there are times where it is not only important to sever any and all connections to past trauma or toxic relationships, it is absolutely vital to a person’s long-term survival.

In the course of my lifetime, I’ve found myself having to do that on a number of occasions with both a lot of experiences and people, including some whom I would’ve never thought I’d have to do that to, if I’m honest.

I haven’t had any contact with my mother in nearly two years now. I have no photos of her in my possession. There are no reminders of her anywhere to be found in my life.

The same goes for both my father, my brother and my ex-wife, though I still speak to my dad on occasion. I haven’t seen my brother or said a word to him in close to three years and I doubt I will likely do so again.

The only reason I keep in contact with my ex-wife is because of our son, though when he reaches adulthood, that will stop as well.

I barely converse with people I grew up or went to high school with. The list of people I went to college and keep in contact with is getting smaller by the year, though it was arguably never really big to begin with.

I don’t keep up with old co-workers for the most part. I don’t get back to the old neighborhoods.

A major part of my routine involves doing precisely what those phrases dictate.

Move on. Let it go.

To do that, I spend my time at work or otherwise keeping myself occupied to the point where I don’t have time to think about those things. Sometimes it involves doing something truly mind-numbing like playing a video game or watching a movie for the 896th time.

Some days it helps. Others not so much. But that’s been my routine for the better part of the past 25 years or so.

Try not to think about it. Try not to remember how you feel about it.

Just Move on. Let it go.

We like to think we’re doing our friends a favor by repeating this rhetoric whenever something bad happens either for the first time or as the continuation of an already painful event. We tend to tell ourselves they can be rather simple actions.

After all, it’s just five words consisting of thirteen letters. How hard can it really be?

Sometimes, it’s harder than you can possibly imagine.

The acts of letting go and moving on, often come with a fair amount of compartmentalization. We slice them up into rational, semi-rational or wholly irrational slices, put them away in little boxes and generally don’t deal with them.

And sometimes the acts themselves are traumatic because doing so creates a separation from not only the unpleasant feelings or memories connected to a person, but they also tend to take the positive feelings and memories, which we are all free to preserve for our own sanity and sense of where we fall on our emotional compass, with them.

Case in point:

I have someone in my life right now who I should’ve let go of and moved on from years ago…and I can’t.

The evidence is there for why I should, just like it was for the other times when I had to with my mother and brother. The relationship feels one-sided both in terms of emotional investment and effort made to sustain it.

In the past few years, the impression I’ve gotten is very much the same as the one I had with my mother at the time I finally found both the strength and the anger to justify moving on from her. That there is a set of unspoken rules which I don’t know about, forming the foundation for how things are both now and moving forward.

Editorial Note: In the interest of fairness, I freely admit that I am simply going by my gut on this and I could be entirely wrong. That said, I’ve also been around the block enough times to be able to put a little trust in my instincts when the evidence favors my doing so.

If that is, in fact, the case then there shouldn’t be any rational reason at all why I don’t do precisely that. Just move on and let it go. I’ve done it before, even with the people who I never thought I would ever have to detach myself from.

So why can’t I do it now?

The reason why I can’t…or at least why the idea absolutely mortifies me…has nothing to do with rationality at all, however.

It’s not about stubbornness or pride or being obsessive or wanting to be vindictive or implementing some measure of patriarchal control or even living in the past. What it boils down to is the simplest, yet most irrational thing which usually prevents people from letting go and moving on from the people they care about most.

Hope.

The basic hope that someone matters enough not to give up on them, no matter how much you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.

Every one of us, at some point, clings to the hope that a relationship with someone, be it purely plutonic, intimately personal, or otherwise, is worth holding onto.

That having to let go and move on from them would be a more painful and damaging process in the long-term, than grinding it out in the here and now. To the outsiders, it may seem like a pointless waste of time and borderline masochistic, depending on the circumstances.

Only relationships are one-on-one dynamics and what they see from the outside is not always what you see from the inside.

So despite what my gut and outside sources tell me I should do, I’m not letting go. I’m not moving on.

I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried…and I just can’t, Not this time.

I am clinging to my hope, no matter how fragile it is, and damn the friggin’ consequences, because that is what you do with someone you care about that much, regardless of what they do to you in turn.

You hold on. Right to the bitter end, if necessary, but you hold on.

S.O.S.

Asking_for_helpContrary to popular belief, I am not a person in possession of a big-league ego.

I don’t know everything and though I like to believe there’s sufficient evidence to show I am a fairly intelligent man, I know damn well that I don’t know everything.

And in the interest of full disclosure…I’m glad I don’t, because then I wouldn’t have reason to either learn or change.

Once you become so sure you know how the world works, it calcifies your perspective, which is a rather dangerous thing because the chances of ever being able to change it becomes exponentially more difficult.

Because I don’t know everything and I’ve never had much in the ways of guidance or mentoring on the things I both should and want to know, it’s often come down to me going at it alone through good ol’ trial and error and hoping for the best.

Upon reflection, I don’t know what’s been the harder to handle. The strain of the trials, or having to accept some incredibly bad errors.

When I was looking for a picture to go with this blog, I came across many variations of the same quote:

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength.

For a long time, I was led to believe it was the other way around. That a real man deals with his problems on his own and doesn’t puss out by asking anyone for help.

Help was for weak people who couldn’t cut it. If you want to prove yourself, you deal with your problems alone.

Editorial Note: For the record, it’s a very poor reflection upon my gender that the idea of a man recognizing the need for any measure of assistance is considered a sign of that someone not actually being a man. That our great and powerful machizmo may be compromised as a result of it, thereby somehow making us more female than male, whatever the hell that means, is unquestionably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard to come out of the piehole which is the standard male hive-mind. Seriously.

Everyone needs help at some point in their life. Everyone…and I am not immune to that.

What has always been frustrating for me, however, are the times when I’ve asked for help and the request has gone unanswered or has been flat-out ignored.

The other day, I took a chance and sent an email to an acquaintance both asking for her help and to simply open a dialog about writing. I did this because said acquaintance has been on a veritable roll as of late with multiple projects seeing strong success both locally and abroad.

I also know she’s tackled some similar issues that I am currently struggling with and figured if anyone might help me weather my way through them so I can get back to work on my own projects, what better way to go about it than to ask someone who’s actually pulled it off?

I didn’t ask her to marry me or offer anything salacious. It was an aspiring writer reaching out to a now-established one for a little help.

As of yet, there’s been no reply.

When I was out of work last year, in the middle of sending out more than 350 portfolios to any and all job openings in my field that I could find, I reached out to one of my old professors and his assistants, hoping they might be able to give me some direction, or better still, grease the skids towards me getting an interview or two.

By the progress some of my classmates had made, I know they’d done so at other times, so even after I got my current job, I’ve been periodically sending them stories I’ve done, asking for feedback and guidance on how to get better.

I haven’t heard a word back from either of them in the past year.

Now I know there could be a million reasons why that happened and I’m not so narcissistic to presume the world revolves around me at all times.

Still, when you keep sending out the proverbial messages in a bottle and they never come back, that becomes a frustrating thing.

You start wondering if you’re not worth that person’s time or are they so narcissistic in their own right that you’re somehow beneath them? Have that happen enough times and the impression you get is there’s no other choice but to soldier on alone, because no one else seems interested or otherwise can’t be bothered.

The simple fact of the matter is this.

I can’t get to where I want to be in my life alone. I need help and I know that.

I need help with my writing projects and getting them to a point where I can hopefully get them published.
I need help with my career and keeping my heart in it, because at the moment, it’s not there.
I need help with getting through the work I’m doing with my therapist so it will stick and I can become a much healthier human being.
I need help learning about and being exposed to new things, be it books, music, movies, or just ideas and information.

and yes…I need emotional help too. My support system, as it stands presently, is too small and that’s not healthy for either me or the friends who are shouldering most of the weight.

So I’m asking for some help. It doesn’t have to be much and I’m not asking for anyone to do anything I would not do were the roles reversed.

If that’s something you don’t feel comfortable with, then I suppose the best I can say is have a good life and no hard feelings, but I don’t have time for you anymore either.

I am simply not going to get better if I have to keep doing these things alone, neither in terms of my life, my career or my well-being.

If you can find whatever time to lend me a hand, even if it’s five good minutes out of your day, I’ll make sure it’s not wasted time.

I promise you that.

 

Session Three: Distorted Viewscapes

cognitive-distortionsSo I sat down for my second session with my therapist this morning and we ended up trying to cram a whole lot of stuff into 45 minutes.

Most of it was me dumping out all the things I’ve had going through my mind for the past few weeks with all the subtlety of a cement mixer, followed by her giving me the first real tools I can put in the toolbox I need to get through all this.

We talked about my not sleeping well lately, my aunt’s passing away last week and my not being able to attend the funeral yesterday and all the stress I’m still under regarding work and finances.

For the first time, she brought up the idea of medication to help with my anxiety and depression. My doctor hasn’t prescribed any to me yet and I explained to her that I was okay with that because I understood going into this that any antidepressants I’ll need to take were not going to solve the problem entirely.

They might help, sure, but Prozac or Zoloft isn’t a panacea. I was more comfortable starting with her first, then getting started on the meds so I had both bases covered, because I know that’s how this process is supposed to work if I definitively want to get better.

Needless to say, there wasn’t many holes she could poke in that logic.

I need to get ahold of my doctor and see about getting set up with a prescription. Then it’s the trial run and going through the hoops of locking in on an antidepressant that’ll get my brain chemistry on the level. Should be a hoot.

We then moved onto the grunt work and went over this checklist, ten common traits presented by people who deal with depression and anxiety.

By the time we finished going through them, we’d established, much to my chagrin, that I fall into all ten to varying degrees.

Editorial Note: The ones I really excel in are All-or-Nothing ThinkingOvergeneralizing, the Mental Filter, Disqualifying the Positives, Mind Reading, Magnification/Minimization, Emotional Reasoning, Should Statements and Personalization.

Quite the laundry list I’m sportin’ there, and I’m so good at using them that most times, I don’t even have to think about it. They kick in as a purely reactionary reflex to whatever I’m presented with in a given situation.

Accepting that is not easy. Considering I’m already running on a predominantly negative mindset as it is, the instinctual reaction is to get mad at myself for falling into this sort of situation. After all, I should be better than that and it feeds into my need to achieve as close to perfection as I can attain, in order to find the level of self-satisfaction that I want.

My therapist and I also went over some ways which hopefully, will get me to stop being so hard on myself and not be so black-and-white in terms of my perspective.

This is not going to be an easy thing to do for me, nor is it going to be a quick turnaround. Like it or not, a person cannot change themselves overnight, no matter how much I wish it came down to clicking my heels three times and thinking there’s no place like home.

This is going to take time and it’s going to take a lot of work.

“Possibly the rest of your life,” my therapist said.

That’s a frightening thought, honestly. As humans, we’re always looking for the simple and quick solution to what is often a very complex equation.

These things didn’t just come about spontaneously. They’re the byproduct of what my life has been, good, bad or otherwise. I have to keep that in mind, while at the same time not believing what my mind is telling me when it says everyone around me’s a liar, that they don’t care and it alone is the only thing I can trust.

It’s not going to be easy. Not by a longshot. But if I’m going to get better, this is where the grunt work really starts.

Tally Ho.

In Pursuit of the Ever-Elusive Happiness

wallpaper-pursuit-of-happinessIt’s only Wednesday and this week has already been exhausting for reasons I don’t entirely know.

Editorial Note: A brief update on my previous post and my 7-day social experiment. Yeah…I didn’t make it more than about four hours on Monday, so I’m writing it off without another word on the matter….he said with a twinge of semi-ironic snark.

I woke up this morning once again feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink, even though I turned in as soon as I finished the latest chapter in the book I’m reading and had a good eight hours ahead of me to rest up. I ended up with maybe four and even that feels like a generous estimation.

My suspicions are that the lack of sleep has either contributed to, or is a byproduct of, the rather unpleasant state of mind I’ve been in for the past few weeks.

Sunday night, I sent a text to one of my best friends, consisting of just two words.

“I’m sorry,” it said.

When she asked me what for, I deflected and said it was for too many things to list. In my defense, it wasn’t a lie. In that moment, there were so many things I felt a sense of extreme guilt about, I could’ve sent a response the size of War and Peace, and still felt at the end as if I missed a thing or two.

We went back and forth on it for a little while and the thing is, she forgave me a long time ago. I know that and she reminded me, just in case I’d forgotten.

Later that night, I was talking with another friend who’s in a similar state of depression-based turbulence, trying to make sense of what I’ve been feeling and why I’ve been struggling so much lately.

People presume that those of us who deal with depression use it as some form of an excuse for not being able to be happy.

Over the years, I’ve had a great deal of people dare to lecture me on the notion that happiness comes down to a simple choice. You either choose to roll out of bed and be happy or you don’t.

It’s often come from the mouths of those who add that they want me to be happy while the same time doing something which has left me profoundly unhappy.

Still, we like to think it’s that simple. But in reality, that’s both short-sighted and rather a bit of bullshit.

There’s never been a time where I don’t wake up hoping I have a good day ahead of me. That by the time I get back into bed at the end of the night, I can confirm it was indeed a good day and I’m going to sleep with a measure of happiness and contentment with myself, even if I had to overcome a bunch of crap along the way.

Happiness is defined by progress.

If you feel you’ve moved closer to something like a long-term goal or relationship, or better yet was able to attain it, then you’ve earned the right to be happy and damn it, you should be. If you’re able to build upon that happiness by attaining other goals or establishing other relationships which strengthens that foundation, then you’ll find yourself in a position of having a rather enviable existence.

I’ve been trying to think of the last time I felt truly happy in all aspects of my life.

The honest answer? I was four.

That’s how far back I have to go to remember what that level of unbridled happiness feels like.

When I was four, I could read books and do things I liked without the feeling of being labeled an interloper or a phony by others who believed their interest was more valid than mine because they were somehow “cooler.”

I still had a seemingly indefinite supply of both hope and optimism, partly because of inherent naivete about the world, sure, but also because it was an age where people I loved and looked to for validation hadn’t yet started lying to my face about my future.

It was still the cliche of, “You can do anything you put your mind to!” instead of being stonewalled with every excuse imaginable for why I couldn’t do things I wanted to do with my life.

And when I was four, my family was still together and better yet, my extended family was all close by so it was the closest thing to unconditional love I’ve ever experienced.

My dad hadn’t decided he couldn’t handle life as a father, husband and employee under someone else’s authority and my mother was still eight years off from deciding she didn’t want me in her life anymore.

I seriously don’t think there was ever a time in my life where I was happier and for all my trying over the next 34 years, I’ve never gotten anywhere close to it again.

That’s not to suggest there weren’t times when I didn’t find a small measure of it in one way or another, because I did. Doing things with friends, discovering new passions and interests and proving those who doubted me wrong brought their own little victories and their own moments of profound happiness, but they always felt fleeting because something or someone else would inevitably come along to knock me on my ass so hard that I couldn’t tell up from down.

Now I know at this point, somebody…maybe even you…is going to want to tell me that life isn’t supposed to be easy and we’re not always supposed to be happy. There has to be some trials and tribulations along the way.

With due respect…you can totally bite me.

Most people who like to needle me with that observation often fit into two categories. Either:

A.) They already have everything they want and possess nowhere near the understanding I have of just how rough life can actually be, thereby putting them in the realm of pretentious condescension, which I despise,
or B.) Their life went nowhere as well and in their bitterness and angst over that sad fact, they believe I’m being endowed with some profound level of wisdom, thereby putting them in the realm of presuming I’m destined to follow suit, which I also despise.

To say we’re not always supposed to be happy also hypocritically flies in the face of the original precept that happiness is a simple choice.

Were it all dependent on choice alone, then there would be no moments where we would find ourselves unhappy because who in their right mind would suddenly decide they’d had enough of feeling ecstatic and joyous about life and instead wanted to feel like utter crap for a while instead?

Why do you think so many people in this country have issues with abusing drugs, alcohol or sex?

They’re so miserable and so desperate to find even the slightest glimpse of euphoric happiness that they’ll blast something up their nose, chug a bottle of 100 proof or lose themselves in relationships they have no earthly business being in, for that very reason.

That’s finding justification in something which gives the illusion of happiness, rather than actually trying to achieve it, because the something else is easier to come by and is in ample supply, where true happiness is a very rare thing.

Since I’ve never done a narcotic, I barely drink and I’ve been retired from sex for close to five years now, I don’t have those excuses for why I can’t pursue my own happiness. The question, therefore, is what the hell is stopping me from doing it?

The answer is I honestly believe I can’t be happy, because I’m unable to forgive myself for the choices I made and things which occurred to lead me to this point in my life.

I feel like I don’t have the right to be happy because despite what those who really know me may say to the contrary, I don’t know how to see myself as anything other than a terrible human being, or worse, something less than human altogether.

The reason I apologized to my friend the other night wasn’t because I think she needed to hear me say it so she can forgive me. Like I said, she told me herself we crossed that bridge a long time ago and given the state of how badly that bridge got destroyed at one point, that we’ve managed to come back even this far is something I have every right to feel happy about.

But most of the time I don’t and it’s not because of anything other than the fact that I haven’t reconciled within myself so many things about that point in time that I feel like I truly don’t deserve someone like her in my life.

I feel like I don’t deserve any of the people I am so fortunate to have in my life and whom I care about so much because I know who I am and the things I live with and those things massively outweigh whatever right I have to be happy.

Part of that comes from what I went through as a kid and having those abuses put on my shoulders by those who didn’t want to take responsibility for them. Some of it comes from my own horrible decisions and being told that I don’t get to call them mistakes and regardless of what I do in terms of being accountable and learning from them, they will always remain unforgivable.

The list of those things is quite long and involves times where I wasn’t even in control of the situation. Yet, I still carry the blame I’ve placed on myself for them and I’ve never allowed myself to be in a position where finding some measure of peace with them, because to me, doing so implies that I can accept those times when I failed to be something less than the person I work so hard to be…

…and I can’t accept that. I simply can’t.

I was never programmed to accept that the times I fell short of what I was expected to be were okay. To me, those moments were always a signifier of my doing something wrong, even when there was no rational reason to reach that conclusion.

That’s part of what makes up my particular brand of depression and it’s a big part of what I need to figure out if I’m ever going to truly be happy.

And I want to be happy. I want it so bad that I ache for it every damn day.

But if I’m ever going to find it, then what I have to figure out is how to accept that regardless of all the stupid, terrible and truly uncontrollable things I’ve done over the years, that I am not so irredeemable that even I cannot attain some measure of happiness.

Getting there, though, means going through what is by far the most painful thing I’ll probably ever do in my life.

Forgiving myself for simply being human.

 

The Right to Remain Silent

silenceHave you ever had one of those days where you wake up after several hours of sleep and feel like you haven’t actually slept a wink?

How about one of those days where you want so desperately to just break down and bawl your eyes out, but for the life of you, you don’t know the answer as to why?

That’s been my weekend so far.

There’s been an argument going back and forth in my head since about Thursday about how long can I go without saying another word to anyone unless I’m directly asked a question, and then can I answer that question in the simplest terms, using the fewest words.

The argument started after I came home from work that night and realized I very much wanted to speak to someone, anyone, but I’m not sure I really can any more.

The first thing you are told upon being read your Miranda Rights is you have the right to remain silent. That anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law.

Unfortunately, being silent is something I was never good at. Neither was being a minimalist in the things I tell people about myself.

As a result, my words have come back to haunt me on more than one occasion. If I tell someone the truth, it’s assumed that I’m lying. If I’m honest about my life, who I’ve become as a result of it, or how I feel, it’s too much to take.

The notion of having your words used against you applies not only to the court of law, as I’ve found, but it’s also a part of human nature in general.

And I’ve been talking for so long about everything that this mentally ill and socially-ostracized mind of mine feels like it’s finally waking up and understanding of what the deafening silence I’m getting for feedback represents, telling me to just shut up already.

Nobody’s listening anymore, because nobody cares.

So I’m going to attempt a little experiment.

I’m going to see just how long I can go without actually saying anything.

The only acceptable exceptions are at work, where I have to interact with people, and unless I’m asked a direct question to which I am to answer in the shortest number of words possible and I’m not to convey any other information which deviates from answering said question.

The first goal of this experiment is a week.

If I can make it through that, then I suppose we’ll see how it goes from there.

Tally Ho.

On an Island

It feels more and more like everyday brings a new reminder of just how alone I actually am now.

Most of the time, I can put it in the back of my mind or better yet, out of it completely and focus on other things. But there are times like last night when I went to bed with the very real understanding that I am very much on my own, and that realization is not an easy thing to accept.

Sociologists and anthropologists and psychologists can’t agree on much, but they do seem to universally recognize that human beings are very much social creatures. We need to interact with other people and have some sense of belonging to a tribe or community in order to function and even survive.

I’ve read several articles on the perils of loneliness, both physical and emotional. I’ve also seen the popular rhetoric which states that being alone simply comes down to the choice of that particular person alone, which is a rather narrow and simplistic perspective.

Everyone we ever meet in this life comes with the same initial Yes/No test and the decision is made usually in the first five minutes of being in their presence. It may be something they say, how they look or some bit of body language they present which informs the decision, as well as our own prejudices, biases and superficialities based on our own experiences with other people who we can lump into the same social caste.

If they pass the initial test, then we start including them in our group for an inordinate amount of time, during which that person still has to prove themselves on multiple levels. Trust has to be earned. Common interests need to be established. Emotional connections have to be made. Each of those things brings their own Yes/No test with them and often if any of them are decided as No, then that person is usually discarded without another thought, regardless of the initial decision.

That choice can come even years down the road as our own interests and emotional connections and levels of trust we’re willing to invest in other people evolve. But once it’s made. Once the verdict is No. Then that’s it. That person is gone.

We make these decisions each and every day from the time we start interacting socially as children, and while we like to think that there is always a group willing to take someone or there’s always someone for everyone to share an emotional relationship with, (a.k.a. the Many Fish in the Sea Theory) it’s not always the case.

If a person is deemed incompatible with seemingly every social group, then what other option is that individual really left with?

John Donne’s poem dictates, “No Man is an island/entire of himself,” and we’ve adopted that as a societal cliche’, but the reality is we banish people all the time for any reason we can imagine.

Especially now in this hypercritical age of social media and hyper-interaction, where we decide who’s cool on Facebook by how many likes their posts get or how many friends they have. Twitter prophets are established by their number of followers and how fast something gets retweeted.

Even potential relationship opportunities come down to the number of stars you give someone on OkCupid as you scroll down the lists of available suitors like beef speculators judging cattle.

We don’t like to think about the people we discard. We figure they’ll find someone or someone will find them, because of course, they’re supposed to. That’s how the social system we’ve created for ourselves is supposed to work after all, right?

Wrong.

My experiences have helped shape me into a very socially awkward person. I trust hardly anyone. I guard my interests because I’ve long felt that I’m either encroaching on the territory of more socially accepted people like an interloper when I say I like anime or video games or history or photography.

I don’t even like to say I’m a writer, because that puts me in league with people who are quick to disqualify me from that particular circle, even though the act of writing has become the single best way I know to express what I’m actually feeling and thinking with other people because talking to them has become so incredibly difficult in the past few years.

Editorial Note: I’ve had that questioned dropped on me a lot over the years. If you’re so introverted, misanthropic and shy, why do you continually write about your life and all these personal things on a blog? Aren’t you scared of the repercussions that would bring both professionally and socially?
The answer is:

1.) I’ve been writing in journals and diaries and blogs since I was about 12 years-old precisely because I am so socially awkward that this provides the only way I’ve ever felt truly comfortable honestly expressing myself,
2.) the fact that I do so in the open says more about those who find it uncomfortable and covertly would rather I remain silent, even those who are my closest friends, than it does about me.
3.) I guess I’m hoping that whatever I say here reaches someone out there who’s going through something similar and they’re able to recognize, if even for a second, they’re not as alone as I feel each and every day.
and 4.) I honestly don’t have anything left to lose, so what does it really matter?

On a planet of seven billion people clamoring for attention and hungry for acceptance, there is a large and unspoken number of us who inevitably slip through the cracks for one reason or another, but it most definitely isn’t our choice.

No one chooses to get stuck out on an island. You end up there because the boat you’re on sinks and there’s not enough room in the lifeboat with those who decide they’re more important than you. That their lives somehow matter more than yours and you’re not worth saving.

Once you find yourself there, the decisions you have to make are pretty clear.

What are you going to do to survive on your own and is it worth going back to civilization again or are you actually better off here instead?

High and Dry

Yoda_SWSBIn present day society, virtually everyone I know who can say they’ve had some measure of success, no matter how marginal, attributes part of it to the relationship they had with a mentor.

Writers have received mentoring from other, more experienced writers. Media people I know have had avenues of opportunity opened to them by journalistic mentors and on and on it goes.

I have never had a mentor of any sort.

In my experience, the people I come across do not stay around long enough to do so, or else they offer a lot of initial interest in helping me get to the destinations I want to go with my life, only to flake out and bail without a modicum of reason on their part.

Going through that process repeatedly from even as far back as middle school to now has contributed a lot to my overall sense of misanthropy.

It’s hard to trust people at their word when they say they’re going to help you achieve your goals and then leave you standing at square one with a whole laundry list of excuses for why they couldn’t really do anything after all.

It also makes me question what it is about me that causes people to do that.

I know I’m not perfect and those imperfections make me a hard person to know. I know that my life being what it is makes me keen to want into a better strata with a noticeable amount of urgent desperation, which in turn, leads me to try and reach out to anyone who looks even remotely like someone who can get me there.

It also sets my teeth on edge when the assumption is made that I got this far in life the same way a lot of other people did, with the help of their parents or a mentor, or a combination of the two.

Make no mistake, I’ve gotten to where I am now totally and completely on my own.

My parents had no input in that whatsoever, nor did many of my friends and most definitely no one stepped up to be a mentor or patron on my behalf. Even my ex-wife gave me excuse after excuse for why I couldn’t achieve the things I wanted.

I’ve made it this far because I’ve pushed myself well beyond my limits on several occasions and simply refused to quit. I figured if no one was going to take me under their wing and help me find an easier path, then I’d take the hard one, if for no other reason than when I got there I could look back at those people with the absolute satisfaction of knowing I’d done so independently.

I honestly don’t know if that qualifies as impressive, but just imagine where I’d be now if I’d actually had someone been willing to put in the time and effort.

Never Enough Time

a-priorities-challengingI honestly feel like I’m somehow running on a different clock than everybody else I know.

When I left work on Friday, I didn’t have much idea of what I’d do for the weekend. My main priorities were to catch up on the sleep I desperately needed, doing some reading of the book I’ve surprisingly managed to get myself hooked into, do a workout or two and get back to work on the revisions for Terminal Offender.

By the time I woke up this morning, not only did I feel like the weekend was non-existent, but I was frustrated with myself because once again, I hadn’t been as productive as I’d wanted to be.

That’s not to say I wasn’t productive at all, though. Despite not getting to the revisions, I did manage to read about sixty pages of Robert McKee’s book, Story: Style, Structure, Substance and the Principles of Screenwriting, which is proving to be a very useful resource and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to improve their writing acumen. It’s got a lot of good stuff, even if you’re not remotely a screenwriter by literary trade.

When I got up on Sunday, I also ended up going off on an unanticipated tangent and started cleaning out my office and going through all the old paperwork I’d stored in my file cabinet and had in assorted stacks around the rest of my apartment.

It was one of those times I’m known for, where I got it into my head to get organized, and over the span of about eight hours (giving my poor paper shredder breaks to cool down) I managed to get through the majority of it.

But when I managed to call it good for the night last night, it was already 9:30 and I honestly had no idea where my weekend had gone. It honestly felt like in 72 hours, I could only account for about 12-15 hours of it, in terms of what I actually did.

Sure, I did some laundry, talked to my son (yay!), talked to my dad (snarl!!), watched a little TV and played some games for a bit. but in retrospect, that feels like all the things you can do in an afternoon, not the span of three whole days.

I know people who have seemingly managed to take weekends and move the equivalent of mountains in the time it takes me to move pebbles.

A few of my friends have read more books in the last six months than I have in the past three years. My little brother’s been able to restart working on a new version of the card game we created as teenagers, while working ridiculous hours and helping raise a toddler.

I see all these things all these other people are doing and first, the frustration kicks in, followed quickly by the disillusionment or disbelief with myself.

Now I know it’s not as simple as my mind presumes it to be and it all comes down to a simple restructuring of my time and what my priorities are. I know that’s doable, but it doesn’t stop the disturbing feeling of being someone who doesn’t have enough time for the things I want to do, because I have to spend it doing things I have to do.

What I have to do is work. What I want to do is live.

I don’t know why there’s never enough time for me to be able to do both before my time inevitably runs out.

Choose Your Words Carefully

pile-of-words-300x300I was four years-old when I first heard the word, nigger.

It was said to me, of all people, by my then eight year-old brother because he had added to the end of a very long and childish nickname he’d given me at the time.

Editorial Note: In the interests of context, the nickname he’d managed to conjure up was “Devin-Goo-Goo-Fart-Tart-Squirt-Nigger.” As I said, very long and given our respective ages at the time, most definitely childish.

To this day, I don’t know why my brother chose to include that word and even though we haven’t spoken to one another in about three years, I can say with a very strong degree of faith, that he was not then nor is he now, a person who carries any measure of racist tendencies or beliefs.

Where we grew up and when we grew up, being rural Massachusetts in the 1980’s, it was not an uncommon word for kids like us to hear other kids or adults in our neighborhood say.

And we heard it a lot.

New England has always been looked at as a very progressive, liberal place, but that whitewashes over the racial strife that permeated in Boston and other areas from the end of World War II, through the Civil Rights Movement and on into the time when I came around.

It was a downright nasty era and the people who harbored those extreme racial prejudices never really left. They just settled down in towns like mine and had kids I played and went to school with.

As best I can recall, I never heard anyone in my own family say nigger, but somewhere along the way my brother picked it up in his vocabulary. Within a year or so, however, I think he figured out what the word actually means both in definition and context and as far as I know, he never used it again and I’m glad he didn’t.

Now, I brought that story up to prove a point.

We tend to give children a break when we catch them saying socially unacceptable words. After all, they soak up every bit of stimulus and raw information they get like a sponge and I’m sure your parents were the same as mine in when they heard you utter a curse word for the first time, you got the traditional question of where you first heard it, followed by the polite but firm warning to never utter it again.

But I’m willing to bet very good money that the fact I actually wrote that word out in full and did not take the more politically correct stance of employing the more sanitized “N-word,” made you rather uncomfortable.

It made me uncomfortable typing it out because I know full well the social ramifications of using it as a grown adult in the same way I do with the word, cunt.

They are words we’ve predominantly agreed that as a culture and society to not use in our discourse for very valid reasons and I fully and unashamedly support that.

Editorial Note: In all honesty, even the thought of going through the action of typing those six letters out was something I went back and forth on for the past day or so. Now that I’ve done so, I seriously feel like I need to go take a shower or find a way to cleanse myself simply because I chose to use a word that I hope to never use in any form of discourse ever again.

That’s rather scary when you think about it, but that also demonstrates the social weight of using that word, no matter how innocuous your intentions are when and if you choose to do so.

The other night, I got into a really good discussion with some college friends about how American society-at-large is systemically taking words it considers controversial, taboo or just plain uncomfortable out of our collective vocabulary.

The conversation started with the word, ghetto, which I have heard many a privileged white kid say for years to describe their relatively safe and comfortable upper-middle class suburban enclaves and do not have the first clue of what a real ghetto actually looks like or the social insinuations it employs.

It also got me thinking about other words or phrases we say, which are less incendiary, but can cause whomever they’re directed at to become very uncomfortable.

Words like criminaldivorce, or suffering or phrases like I’m gay or I have Depression or I’m lonely.

More often, these words are stifled not because they’re incorrect, but because they’re honest and people are not big fans of honesty. It’s hard enough to say that I have serious Depression to even my best friends, because the admission risks being accepted less like a statement of medical fact and more like an excuse for why I am unable to conform to the expectations I perceive them to have regarding who I am.

Because of that, if I do mention it, I make sure to tack on the acceptably proactive term, dealing. I’m dealing with DepressionPutting it that way implies I’ve somehow got a grip on it and eventually I’ll learn to tame and domesticate it like I would a stray cat.

But under no circumstances can I say I suffer from Depression, even on days where it’s thoroughly kicking the ever-loving shit out of me. To say that implies that I am in need of massive sympathy and am playing up the angle of being a Drama Queen, so you should immediately feel sorry for me.

When I say I’m divorced, there is a moment where people give that subconscious millisecond of judgmental body language that plays like a bad tell in poker. It’s either a glance of sympathetic understanding or instant villanization, depending on that person’s perspective on what that word means.

Does it mean I was in a relationship that didn’t work out or am I just another bad apple who got what he deserved?

We don’t realize it, but there are so many words we use that carry so much emotional baggage which we ourselves tether to them through our own experiences and attitudes that it often bleeds over into how other people use them.

That’s a dangerous thing because on the one hand, we like to pride ourselves on being theoretically free to express ourselves in the most honest terms possible. And yet when someone dares to do so, it often causes us to recoil and assume the worst in that person because they somehow had the gall to use a word or phrase we find unsettling or taboo.

Does that mean we should be allowed to use whatever words we want whenever we want? I guess, but you better understand that by doing so, you bear the full weight of the consequences of your choice of words so you best be damn sure you know the precise reason why you say them.

After all, Freedom of Speech means the government cannot penalize you for what you say but you best understand that freedom is far from infinite.

As George Carlin once noted in his brilliant observation of the 7 Words You Can’t Say on TV, the word fuck is a word that carries so much emotional baggage that at one time, you could actually go to jail in this country for saying it aloud in public, as Lenny Bruce did in the 1950’s.

But at the end of the day, it’s still just a word consisting of four letters and who’s original Old English definition was simply, “To hit or smite.”

For myself, I’ve discovered three of the most uncomfortable words I can ever try and say to anyone are the three words which no person should ever feel uncomfortable saying, because they’re the three most harmless and vital words in our entire vocabulary.

I know exactly what they mean and why I choose to use them. They are undeniably honest words, and to me, represent the ultimate expression of both feeling and affection, but because of the reactions I’ve always received when I mustered the courage to say them, I honestly don’t know when or if I’ll ever feel comfortable saying them again.

Those three words…?

I love you.

Terrors

nightmareI snapped awake about an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off this morning and rarely have I been more relieved to find myself safe in my own bed.

 

My dream cycle is often occupied with nightmares of varying degrees and I suppose if there’s a bright side, it’s that for the most part, I don’t remember hardly any of them. The ones I somehow do manage to end up storing in my memory banks, however…?

Well, let me put it this way.

Someone I care about very much once accused me of having a subconscious mind so flooded by everything my conscious mind churns out that it often overflows, which in their opinion, made me rather a dangerous individual and it wasn’t meant in a nice way, either.

The most obvious defense I can use to counter that is while I have some considerable measure of control over my conscious mind, there is nothing I can do about my subconscious, no matter how much I wish I could. It goes where it wants to go, when it wants to go there and all I can do is hang on for the ride.

Lucky, lucky me.

The nightmare that jolted me out of bed this morning was brutal. There’s no other way to describe it. The visceral, stomach-churning images, and worse still the sounds, are things I don’t think I could adequately describe. There’s too much grey area around it to paint a full picture.

What I could paint though would take a lot of red. A frighteningly unconscionable amount of red.

Now it may be entirely out of the exhaustion I’ve been feeling all day as a result of getting way too little sleep last night, but I haven’t been able to go more than ten or fifteen minutes of my entire day without getting a subliminal replay of it.

As bad as that is, what I find genuinely scary is that since I was a pretty young, there have been nights where my brain conjures up visions like this and I truly do not understand or can even begin to postulate why it chooses to do so.

I’ve often talked to friends about my complete lack of interest in horror movies and even though I am well-versed in how special effects work and how they’re constructed, the realistic portrayal of gore they generate is something I’ve never been able to handle.

Editorial Note: You can chalk that up to being exposed to expertly-crafted horror movies like Poltergeist and Alien among others, by my parents and my brother’s friends while I was still young enough to go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween…which ironically is a movie I’ve managed to avoid, but I digress.

So excluding that, then what is it that’s fueling the occasional outbursts of terrifying cerebral theatre? If that accusation is valid, and purely for the sake of argument let’s suggest that it is, then I imagine I’d have to devote considerable portions of my time trying to construct the framework and scenery for these nightmares to play out on.

The problem with that is I don’t and I’m pretty damn sure I’d know if I did as that’s one of the many perks to having a separation between the conscious and the subconscious minds. When I’m awake, I know what I’m thinking and feeling, and more importantly why I’m thinking and feeling that way.

Now if I could ever figure out how to turn the nightmares off, I know I’d sleep a whole hell of a lot better at night.